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Current Name
Ancient Name
Medieval Name
History of the name

The name Neapolis (Nea polis = New city), has been accompanying the city from its foundation until the middle of the 8th century AD. It appears with the name Christoupolis for the first time in 9th century AD sources. It is probable that the decision of changing its name was made at the time, with the revival of the old glamour of the nearby city of Filippoi, when the tradition of the arrival of Apostle Paul at the city port also revived.

According to Bakalakis, in the time period between the years 1470 - 1533, the city is mentioned in the sources under the name Kavala with the explanation Christoupolis. In the beginning, the new name (Kavala) was given to a settlement of colonists from the city of Kevele in Anatolia which is being referred to in 15th century sources.

Place :

Geopolitical Unit
Eastern Macedonia
Administrative subdivision
Kavala Municipality
Kavala is built on the peninsula of Panagia, on the foot of mount Symvolo. The steep coasts and the intense geophysical feature of the landscape of the peninsula make the city unreachable from land and sea. This fact, in combination with the port, which is the second safest mainland coast port in the Northern Aegean, after the port of Thessaloniki, is the main reason why the city bloomed from a very early time.
Foudation Date
The exact chronology of the foundation of the city is unknown. But the oldest residential remnants date back to the third quarter of the 7th century BC.
Current condition
It is the second biggest port in Macedonia and one of the most strategic ports in Northern Greece. Today its population numbers at about 60000 residents. The city has important industrial significance while in the wider marine area there is the only oil mining unit in Greece (Kavala oil Inc.). It also has one of the largest fish markets in the Mediterranean.

The most primary indications of the appearance of humans in the peninsula of Panagia are those of native Thracian tribes from the Early Iron Age (1050-700 BC).  However, it was residentially organized in the second half of the 7th century BC, by colonists from Thasos and Paros islands. By the end of the 6th century BC, Neapolis becomes independent and creates its own currency.

Our knowledge of the history of Neapolis between the 7th and the 5th century BC is limited. From the ceramics found in the Sanctuary of Parthenos there is proof that the city maintained vivid commercial relations with many ancient cities through its port.

After the battle of Plataiai (479 BC) and the departure of the Persians, Neapolis becomes a member of the Athenian alliance and later, by subjecting to Filippos B’ (346 BC), it loses its autonomy and becomes a seaport for the city of Filippoi.
In the roman era it evolves into an important harbor of the area and becomes a station for Via Egnatia, which runs outside its walls, having as a result its great development as a junction point where both sea and land trails intertwine.  

Almost a century later, in 49 AD, it became the first European city where Apostle Paul arrived. From the 3rd to the 6th century AD, the consecutive barbaric invasions created a high necessity for the city to repair its walls. For this reason, it was included by Julian and Justinian in the empire’s program of fort reinforcement. The last allusion of the name Neapolis can be found in a Tactic dated in 733-746 AD.

The new name of the city, Christoupolis, appears for the first time in an epistle by Hagios Theodoros Stoudites, as well as in narratives of Hagios Gregorios Dekapolites, in the end of the 8th, beginning of the 9th, century. At that time, Christoupolis was an important byzantine castle and episcopal seat.

With the organization of the institution of “Themata”, Christoupolis is included in the ‘”Thema of Strymon” and evolves to a remarkable imperial marine base.

A few years later, the Normans, in 1185 take over Thessaloniki and go on to overrun and set fire to Christoupolis.
After the domination of the Byzantine state by the Franks, the city is being renovated by the Lombards. In the late byzantine period, it looks as if it maintained its vital importance, although there were some ephemeral conquerors, while in the first half of the 14th century it was one of the places which Andronikos the 3rd Palaiologos used as base of his operations when he was trying to take over the throne.
In 1391 the Ottomans completely destroyed the city and its residents were scattered to the nearby areas. In the summer of 1425 the city is being occupied and at the end taken over by the Venetians who, nevertheless, didn’t manage to keep it for a long time. A month later, in August 1425, Christoupolis was once again in the possession of the Ottomans after a 20-day-long siege.

From the middle of the 15th century, the name Christoupolis vanishes, and the sources don’t mention it as a city any more but as a forted military base. In the beginning of the 16th century, Hebrew from Hungary resided in the area, as well as Turks and Greeks from the nearby areas. This is when a new flourishing time begins for the city, with its population rapidly growing and great projects taking place to change the outlook of the city. 

In the 17th century, when piracy and mugging of the caravans was widely spread in the area, the port of Kavala which is mainly being used for exporting wheat often becomes the mooring port for pirate ships and their crews, who preyed upon the local people and the travelling merchants. In 1684, the Venetian General Capitano Francisco Morosini, bombarded the fort of Kavala with a light squadron, trying to take over the city but didn’t succeed.

In the 19th century the city changes and is embellished. Its commercial importance grows and the port thrives. The Greek element pullulates and plays an important part in the area’s economy and trade. This development intensifies in the second half of the century when safety, trade and regular transportation were established, having as a result the growth of the population. Thus, in 1864, its Greek residents took a permit from the Turkish government to expand the city beyond its walls.

The boom lasts until the beginning of the Balkan Wars in 1912. It is then that the Bulgarians take over the city and keep it until it is finally liberated in 1913. Since then, and especially after the settlement of a great number of refugees from Asia Minor, the city of Kavala expands and takes the form of a modern urban centre.


From the Early Christian Neapolis, only a great number of architectural members have been preserved, probably originating in churches of the era. One of them is placed near the port, in the current position of Hagios Nicolaos, as is proven by the sculptures found in the area and those reused in the new church. Furthermore, architectural sculpting indicates the existence of an Early Christian basilica in the place of the modern church of the Dormition of Theotokos. Finally, a basilica of the Middle Byzantine period was spotted during the excavational works that have being done in the Music mosque which occupies the place above the basilica. This basilica has been related to the Episcopal church of Christoupolis by the researchers.

From the Byzantine period, remains of buildings from the port area have been traced, as well as cist-graves and portable findings of the middle Byzantine period in the eastern part of moat outside the byzantine enclosure. Some of the marble inscriptions can be more enlightening about the past of Kavala. In one of them, which is being encorporated in a cornerstone of one of the wall’s ramparts, the burning of Christoupolis probably by the Normans, is being mentioned. Moreover, some events related to the reign of Andronikos A’ Komninos (1183-1185) are recorded, as well as the renovation of a building which took place in the 8th year of Isaakios Aggelos’ s reign.

From the late byzantine era there are preserved marbled relief stones, walled-in in the church of the Dormotion of Theotokos, or scattered in the surrounding area. These stones can be attributed to the post-byzantine chapel of Panagia Kammitziotissa, which belonged to the monastery of Pantokrator on the Holy Mountain. Moreover, traces of the building activity carried out by Suleyman the Magnificent and Vizier Ibrahim can still be found scattered throughout the city. This reconstruction included the rebuilding of the aqueduct, the engraving of a new forting enclosure for the expansion of the city towards the North, the erection of a Muslim temple, probably the current church of Hagios Nikolaos, as well as the creation of an inn for hosting travelers. 


From antiquity, the development of the city is connected to the extended use of its port. Ceramics found in the wider area and mainly in the Sanctuary of Parthenos, make it obvious that there was a close relation between Kavala and other great commercial ports of ancient times. This intense commercial activity through sea went on throughout the whole long-living history of the city.     Our knowledge about the port of Kavala is fragmentary and mainly based on written sources. Bakalakis is certain that the ancient port of Kavala was much greater than the gulf preserved in its place today, and it was later silted. On the other hand, Lichounas and Tsouris state the existence of two ports with two respective shipyards, whose function through the centuries, however, wasn’t constant.

We are informed by the sources that in 42 BC, Brute and Casio used the port of the city as a marine base for their fleet during their preparation for the battle of Philippi.

Much later, in the first half of the 12th century, the Arab geographer Idrisi, reports that Christoupolis is found in a fort position and maintains marine trade. The next written testimonial from the 16th century, when the traveler Pierre Belon who visited Kavala between the years 1546 – 1549, states that the port of Kavala is big but is being stroked by storms and that is why all the ships keep away from the coast. A little later in time, in 1591, the secretary of a Venetian ambassador cites the shipment of a galleon for the Bey of the area in the city’s shipyards, a fact that supports the point of view about the existence of a capable shipyard for the shipment of great vessels. This shipyard is placed by researchers in the lowest part of the neck of the peninsula, where today the small shipyard is located.

In the 17th century, the port was being used for exporting wheat. At the same time, however, many pirate ships sailed at the area, since it was a period when piracy in the Aegean was in bloom. In that time, the chronographer Evlia Tselebi visits Kavala and among his descriptions one can find those of the harbor facilities of the city. He mentions that Kavala had a spacious port which could facilitate up to 1000 vessels with three ship sheds for galleons and smaller boats too. The city was connected with the port through the “Pyli tis Skalas” (= the portal of skala), while on the outside of the portal there were the necessary facilities (inns, commercial stations, repositories etc.). It is also noted that even though the port was “an exquisite mooring”, it wasn’t safe when southern or eastern winds blew.

The next century the port is being used for loading cannon balls manufactured in Eleftheroupolis and being shipped to Istanbul. Moreover, at the time there was the beginning of a vivid trade movement of Marseille and French commercial ships which often visit Kavala unloading French merchandise for the mainland, and carrying exported products (eg. cotton from Orfani, Eleftheroupolis and Drama, oil and wax from Thasos, etc.).

In the 19th century the English traveler E.D. Clarke mentions the existence of two ports, the western one being the main port of the city and could facilitate the traffic of passengers from and to Thasos, Lemnos, Mytilini and Samothraki and has an important fishing fleet and marine sports facilities.   

In the beginning of the 5th century BC, an enclosure made of local granite was built to enforce the natural fortification of the peninsula. Parts of this fortification came to light after excavations which showed that it almost had the same engraving as that of the byzantine times and the Turkish domination. It was probably in the 3rd century when the first expansion of the fortification enclosure took place outside the peninsula of Panagia, towards the modern side of the city. An inscription incorporated in the walls of Christoupolis near the port, mentions the repair of the worn out fortification which took place in 926 and was made by the General of the “Strymon Thema”, Vasileio Kladona. Possibly, the disastrous earthquake that hit the neighboring Thema of Thrace is the reason for the partial collapse of the fortification, which is the one that Kladonas restored. In the 14th century, the emperor Andronikos B’ Palaiologos, built a long wall in order to prevent the invasion of the Catalans, who had marched into Thessaloniki without success and were returning to Thrace. In the sources it is mentioned as the “Walls next to Christoupolis” which stretches from Christoupolis up to the top of the mountain in the north of Kavala. Big parts of this wall and debris of some of the towers are being preserved until today on the sides of mount Symvolo, on the northern part of the modern city. Its lower part, which was neighboring the castle of Christoupolis, has been ruined in recent years but its line was continued by the aqueduct later in time. Despot Konstantinos, the brother of Michael the 8th, when he campaigned against Andronikos 3rd, asked for his troops to be allowed to enter through the long wall. But the Christoupolis guards denied it and he destroyed part of the wall to go through. However, this part of the wall seems to have been reconstructed fast. Another reconstruction of the walls seems to have taken place in 1425 when the Venetian threat forced the Turks to reinforce the fortification of the Acropolis. The next important expansion of the fortification of the city occurred in the 16th century by Suleyman the Magnificent who built the new enclosure since big part of it was destructed the previous century in order to cover the needs of the new buildings.
Medieval Sites

Archaeological Sites:

  •  Acropolis


  • Archaeological Museum:
  • Tobacco Museum:

Standing monuments:

  •  Fortification of the city
  •  Aqueduct of Kavala
  •  Old Music Mosque
  •  Church of Hagios Nikolaos
Textual Sources
  •  Γρηγορᾶς Νικ., Ρωμαϊκή Ιστορία, XIII, 1, εκδ. Βόννης , σ. 631.
  •  Καντακουζηνός I, Εximperatoris Ηistoriarum. Libri IΙ, σ.346, και Libri IV, σ.24, εκδ. Βόννης.
  •  Προκοπίου, Περί Κτισμάτων, εκδ. Loeb, Δδ3, σ.254.

• Bakirtzis Ch., Byzantine Kavala: Archaeological survey, Πρακτικά Α’ Τοπικού Συμποσίου: Η Καβάλα και η περιοχή της, (Καβάλα, 18 – 20 Απριλίου 1977), Θεσσαλονίκη 1980, σ. 249 – 262.
• Belon P., Les observations de plusiers signularités et choses memorables, Paris 1638, σ. 128 – 134.
• Cousinery E.M., Voyage dans le Macédoine, Paris, 1831, σ. 61-75.
• Δήμος Καβάλας, Νεάπολις - Χριστούπολις - Καβάλα, Οδοιπορικό στον χώρο και στον χρόνο της Παλιάς Πόλης, Καβάλα, 2009.
• Dvornik F., La Vie de saint Grégoire le Décapolite et les Slaves macédoniens au IXe siècle, Paris, 1926, κεφ. 10, σ.54.
• Ευγενίδου Δ., Κάστρα Μακεδονίας και Θράκης. Βυζαντινή Καστροκτισία, Αθήνα 2003, σ.67 – 71.
• Καραγιάννη Φ., Οι βυζαντινοί οικισμοί στη Μακεδονία μέσα από τα αρχαιολογικά δεδομένα (4ος-15ος αιώνας),Θεσσαλονίκη 2010, σ.138-141.
• Λαζαρίδης Δ., Νεάπολις. Χριστούπολις. Καβάλα. Οδηγός Μουσείου Καβάλας, Αθήνα 1966.
• Lemerle P., Philippes et la Macédoine orientale a l’ époque chrétienne, Paris 1945.
• Λυχούνας Μ. – Τσουρής Κ., Νεάπολις – Χριστούπολις 300 μ.Χ. – 1391 μ.Χ, Η παλιά πόλη της Καβάλας (7ος πΧ – 20ος αι.), Ο χώρος, οι άνθρωποι, τα τεκμήρια της ιστορίας, τ.1, Καβάλα 2005.
• Λυχούνας Μ., Μεσαιωνικό Υδραγωγείο Καβάλας, Καβάλα 2008.
• Μαλούχου Φ. – Tufano S., Η Ακρόπολη της Καβάλας. Ιστορική Εξέλιξη – Προτάσεις Συντήρησης και Αναβίωσης, Πρακτικά Α΄ Τοπικού Συμποσίου: Η Καβάλα και η περιοχή της, (Καβάλα, 18-20 Απριλίου 1977), Θεσσαλονίκη 1980, σ.341 – 359.
• Μπακαλάκης Γ., Νεάπολις – Χριστούπολις – Καβάλα, ΑΕ 1936, 1-48.
• Μπακαλάκης Γ., Το τοπωνύμιο Καβάλα, Πρακτικά Α΄ Τοπικού Συμποσίου: Η Καβάλα και η περιοχή της, (Καβάλα, 18-20 Απριλίου 1977), Θεσσαλονίκη 1980, σ. 129-132.
• Μπακαλάκης Γ., Πύργος υπέρκαλος, Οίνος Ισμαρικός, τιμητικός τόμος για τον καθηγητή Γ. Μπακαλάκη, μέρος Α’, Θεσσαλονίκη, 1990, σ. 83-96.
• Μέρτζιος Κ., Μνημεία Μακεδονικής Ιστορίας, Θεσσαλονίκη, 1947, σ. 139,168, 170 – 172, 174, 183, 190, 212, 313.
• Μοσχοπούλου Ν., Η Ελλάς κατά τον Εβλία Τσελεμπή, ΕΕΒΣ ΙΔ (1938), σ. 507 – 514.
• Reinach S., La reconstruction des murs de Cavalla au 10e siècle, BCH 106 (1982), σ.267-276.
• Στεφανίδου Α., Η πόλη-λιμάνι της Καβάλας κατά την περίοδο της τουρκοκρατίας. Πολεοδομική και ιστορική διερεύνηση (1391-1912), Καβάλα, 2007.
• Τσούρης Κ., Νεάπολις – Χριστούπολις- Καβάλα. Διορθώσεις – Προσθήκες – Παρατηρήσεις στην οχύρωση και την ύδρευση, ΑΔ 53 (1998), Μέρος Α’, Μελέτες, σ.387-454.
• Χιόνης Κ.Ι, Ιστορία της Καβάλας, Καβάλα 1968.
• 12η ΕΒΑ, Το παράλιο τείχος της Καβάλας, Καβάλα 2008.


Visual Material

(plans, maps, photos etc from the city and the harbor)

Writer / Date
Livadioti Marina
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